Earworms meet Big Data (on Twitter)

July 25th, 2016

Lassi_Hoover_PortraitBack in 2008, Dr. Lassi A. Liikkanen [pictured] of the Helsinki Institute for Information Technology (HIIT), University of Helsinki, Finland performed a formal scientific study to investigate INvoluntary Musical Imagery (INMI), a phenomenon more commonly known as an Earworm. Now Dr Liikkanen, along with Kelly Jakubowski and Jukka M. Toivanen have for the first time extended the study of earworms into Big Data territory, using Twitter. Notwithstanding the fact that less than 1 in every 100,000 tweets reference earworms, over a period of six months the investigators sifted through 80,620 earworm-related tweets originating from more than 173 countries. Finding that, in general, twitterers don’t much care for earworms.

“We uncovered evidence that the earworm experience is a widespread psychological phenomenon reported in locations throughout the globe. We found that users openly discuss the types of music that they experience as earworms and potential causes and cures for these via their Twitter network. Finally, we discovered that people discuss INMI in more negative emotional terms on Twitter than other topics, including music in general.”

See: ‘Catching Earworms on Twitter: Using Big Data to Study Involuntary Musical Imagery’ in: Music Perception: An Interdisciplinary Journal, Vol. 33 No. 2 (pp. 199-216) 2015

Note for earworm sufferers: Recent work by Victoria J. Williamson et al. draws attention to the possibilities of ‘Cure Tunes’ – citing as an example, ‘Kashmir’ by Led Zeppelin.

[Disclaimer. Improbable cannot independently verify or assure that the so-called ‘Cure Tune’ may not itself initiate INMI in some listeners]

“Why does popcorn jump when it bursts?”

July 24th, 2016

Emmanuel Virot explains, carefully, why he believes popcorn bursts when it jumps:

Details, in writing, burst from the pages of the study “​Popcorn: critical temperature, jump and sound,”  by E. Virot and A. Ponomarenko, published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface [12, 20141247 (2015)]. Virot  contemplates popcorn at the Hydrodynamics Laboratory at École Polytechnique.

The study begins with the sentence: “Popcorn is the funniest corn to cook, because it jumps and makes a ‘pop’ sound in our pans. ”

How to trim a tree

July 23rd, 2016

This video demonstrates an efficient way to trim a tree:

(Thanks to Vaughn Tan for bringing this to our attention.)

What a difference a colon makes (to academic citations)

July 22nd, 2016

ColonFollowing our recent report on the (report of the) finding that Short Paper Titles Tend to Have a Longer Reach (Improbable Research, June 16th 2016) we now inform about (research about) another possible method that academic authors might use to lever increased attention for their paper – with the disarmingly simple trick of adding a colon   :   somewhere in the title. See: ‘What a difference a colon makes: How superficial factors influence subsequent citation’ in: Scientometrics, March 2014, Volume 98, Issue 3, pp 1601-1615, by Maarten van Wesel, Sally Wyatt, and Jeroen ten Haaf.

[1] The paper, which notably has a colon in its own title, has (at the time of writing) been cited 12 times.
[2] This format is currently not in vogue :—
[3] Colonic recommendations from the late Professor Larry Trask,
(as maintained by the Department of Informatics, University of Sussex).

Also see: ‘Ellipsis in English Literature’

Counting Things that Could Exist (philosophically)

July 21st, 2016

Prof-RosefeldProfessor Tobias Rosefeldt, of the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany, counts things that could exist – in particular, he specifically does so in a new paper for The Philosophical Quarterly.

“Consider a tailor who works for a company that sells business suits as well as hipster suits. She has two business trousers and two business jackets in front of her and wonders in which combinations she should arrange them and whether she should dye the resulting suits pinkish in order to produce hipster suits or not. She asks herself the following question: ‘How many possible suits could I make by combining and dying the two jackets and the two trousers?’ “

Note that the imagined suits in the imagined example don’t actually exist, nevertheless, is it possible to ‘count’ them? The author bears in mind previous work on imaginary suit-counting, particularly the writings of Timothy Williamson ((1998). ‘Bare Possibilia’, in Erkenntnis, 48, 257–73.)

“Williamson assumes that a suit is constituted by a jacket and a pair of trousers that are originally hung together and that at most one possible suit can be made of a given jacket and a pair of trousers. He then shows that, given two jackets J1 and J2 and two pairs of trousers T1 and T2, there are four possible suits that could be made from J1, J2, T1 and T2, although it is impossible that there are ever more than two suits that are made from the set.”

The professor comes to a number of conclusions regarding such possibilia, arguing that (amongst other things) such cases –

“[…] should be understood as cases of quantification not over individual possible objects but rather over kinds of objects, some of which do not actually have instances.”

See: ‘Counting Things that Could Exist’ preprint in: The Philosophical Quarterly, May 16, 2016.

BONUS free thought experiment. Based on the author’s example regarding the numerical possibilia of  ‘Tomato Salads’, discuss how many could exist. [resauces]